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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

August 10, 2016

My law department recently won a very prestigious award. Is it appropriate to mention this in my resume or cover letter? If so, how?

Julie Q. Brush

Winning awards is fun. It makes you feel good, provides a sense of accomplishment and is recognition for a job well done. Aside from also making you feel warm and fuzzy, awards can be used as valuable tools in brand building, business development and horn tooting. But when it comes to highlighting such accolades, professionals fall on many point of the spectrum. Some are governed by modesty, some deputize others to toot and some march to the top of the mountaintop and bellow at the top of their lungs. There are no hard rules regarding award advertising and one style of promotion is not necessarily better than the other, if done tactfully.

So as a member of a law department receiving a very prestigious award, is it appropriate to mention this recognition in your resume or cover letter? You bet! Your department (of which you are a part) has accomplished something notable and received a prestigious award as a result. So it’s entirely appropriate to include this achievement as part of your professional marketing materials (In addition to your resume and cover letter, I recommend that you include the award information on your LinkedIn profile). Below are a few suggestions on the best way to advertise:

The Resume.

On your resume, you have a few options re location, formatting and style of this department award:

Example 1

COMPANY X, San Francisco, CA                                        2012 – Present
[Practice Description Text] xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Awards: 2016 Associate
of Corporate Counsel Best Legal Department Award.

Example 2

COMPANY W, Atlanta, GA                                                    2005 – Present
[Practice Description Text] xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


* Best Corporate Legal Department (2016), American Lawyer

The Cover Letter.

Not many hiring managers read cover letters anymore…but some still do. Today’s cover letters are concise and to the point. So if you are creating a cover letter to describe the highlights of your experience, including a line/phrase/sentence about your prestigious department award can be valuable. Location of the award communication will vary depending on your narrative, but it should not be the first thing an employer reads. What to say? Two examples:

  • I currently serve as Director of Commercial Transactions at Company X where our legal department earned the 2016 American Lawyer’s Best Legal Department Award.
  • As a senior member of the legal department (which recently received the 2016 ACC Legal Department of the Year award),………..


You’ve got three places to include your award information: (1) The Summary; (2) The description section under Current Employer; and/or (3) Honors & Awards section. My recommendation is to go with #2, #3 or both – as the information will stand out in these sections. In addition, simply list the award as opposed to a narrative. 2 examples:

  • Legal Department of the Year Award, Company X, 2016 (Wall Street Journal)
  • Bloomberg’s Top In House Legal Department Award, 2016

Awards provide a great opportunity to showcase one’s excellence. And showcase your prestigious department award, you may. Resume. Cover letter. LinkedIn. Leverage them all to let the world know what you and your team have accomplished.

Like this

I would not list this departmental achievement. It begs the following questions: What were the criteria for the award? What was your contribution to the department for it to receive this award? One had better be prepared to answer those questions with specific details. A personal award is different because one can claim individual ownership though event that is of questionable relevance. Back when I was a hiring manager, I was less interested in what the candidate had done (other than relevant subject matter experience and that was not necessarily dispositive) and more in what they could do in the proposed role. When discussing an individual award, you have an opportunity to showcase your humility by acknowledging that you were part of a team (the most important of which was your secretary and paralegal, but also mention the support staff) and that without their help, you would not have received the award. That will set you apart from the other candidates, but only if you believe it to be true.

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